Review date
Canadian Art
Richard Rhodes

Iris Häussler has produced some of the most innovative installation works of the past decade in Toronto. The Legacy of Joseph Wagenbach (2006) became something of a city event as viewers bought into the fiction of an immigrant loner artist leaving behind an abandoned house filled with suggestive figurative art. A few years later at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in He Named Her Amber (2008–10), a walk through the Grange annex became an archaeological expedition back to the mid-19th century and hidden waxworks created by a fictional Irish maid, Mary O’Shea. A new project involving a fictitious early 20th-century female painter, Sophie La Rosière, is currently in development for Paris.

One only wonders at Häussler’s inclination to hide. Her less than frontline public authorship has made for artworks that verge on theatre. There is an authorial voice shaping events, a time frame, a process of discovery, characters—all the things usually absent from a standard art exhibition, unless it is a retrospective or historical survey where the artist is very much a developing character in the proceedings. Häussler’s hiding is a strategy of course. It is a means, by absenting herself, to make her audiences think themselves imaginatively into a narrative framework—a framing device that asks us to consider the history that lies behind made objects...